The usually sure-handed Jonathan Baldwin caught six of those tosses from Bill Stull for 111 yards, even though the Midshipmen knew where he was and double-teamed him as much as possible.
"Even when we threw that deep ball to him, he was covered,'' Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said. "They're always going to know where he's at. A lot of the time, he's going to have two guys on him. So, some of the throws that do open up are going to give other players opportunities. That's what happens. That's part of the deal when they respect you.''
Wannstedt added that the Panthers have numerous passing plays called where Baldwin is either the primary or secondary option. The sophomore appears to be leaner, stronger and quicker this season, after a year with strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris, and his considerable talents aren't lost on Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, either.
"When you look at it, you identify certain players who need to touch the ball,'' Cignetti said. "Obviously, the tailbacks, Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. Obviously, Jonathan Baldwin. Obviously, Dorin Dickerson. Cam Saddler is a guy who needs to start getting some touches. But there are some other guys who can work themselves in the progression of reads.''
And that's the deal with Cignetti's offense. Stull has several options, and as he goes through each one he looks for an open receiver. If that's Baldwin downfield or Lewis in the flat, Stull needs time to find them.
"J.B. tells me all the time to just to throw it up there, and he'll get it,'' Stull said. "I tell him that I know he has a 42-inch vertical and great hands, but I don't want to just throw it up for grabs.''
Wannstedt believed that wouldn't be a bad idea, as long as Baldwin had a shot.
"If it's close, he's got a chance to come down with it,'' Wannstedt said. "That was a good, positive game for him from a growing and learning standpoint. ... We're starting to do more things with him. You can see some of the different routes. Last year, it was more of take-offs on the outside, the deep balls.
"Now we're running him on some shallow crossing routes, on some deep things, some little screens. So, we're trying to get him involved with the passing game more, but we don't want to get ahead of ourselves just yet.''
Baldwin has a team-best 13 catches for 225 yards (17.3 per catch), but no touchdowns. Dickerson also has 13 catches for 103 yards and four scores, but Baldwin isn't lobbying for more looks in the red zone.
"I never really worry about that stuff,'' Baldwin said. "The coaches know what they're doing. We have a lot of people who can make plays. And Coach Cignetti, it's after the third game now, so he can start opening it up a little bit. So, it should get better from here on out.''
Maybe Baldwin should be an option on third down. Pitt can't be questioned in the red zone, as it's 16-for-16 with 13 touchdowns. On third down, however, the Panthers are 13-for-34 (38 percent). Pitt is 3-for-3 on fourth down.
"We've had ... some penalties and drops on third down,'' Cignetti said. "(And) there were a couple third-down calls last week where if Coach (Wannstedt) didn't say we had two downs to get it, third down would have been a different call rather than going for the shot (down the field). So, there are different reasons, but ... we have total confidence in our third-down package.''
Baldwin is confident as well, noting that with Lewis, Dickerson, Oderick Turner and Nate Byham, the Panthers have the talent to be a potent offense. But they'll have their work cut out for them against North Carolina State Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Raleigh, N.C.
"The N.C. State defense, they only allow seven points a game, 70 (yards) rushing (and) 90 passing, so it's going to be a big challenge,'' Baldwin said. "But I think we're ready for it.''
And it's a good bet that the Wolfpack will be ready for Baldwin.
Baldwin Breaks Out
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